BY ISN STAFF | March 26, 2013
The following is an ISN interview wth Georgetown University student Sydney Browning on her involvement with the University Endowment and Divestment Campaign.
ISN: How’d this all get started?
Sydney: Our campaign is about 2 months old. It started in January 2013, but we had been planning for some time before. We started by sending a letter to the President of Georgetown, Dr. John DeGioia, to inform him of the campaign and ask for support. We also made a proposal for Georgetown to divest from all fossil fuel and coal companies within 5 years and then reinvest in more socially responsible alternatives. We also reached out to the Socially Responsible Investment Committee to try and see greater transparency about investment and to also have a stronger review of where Georgetown is investing money.
We sent some press releases, hung banners, did dorm storming in order to try and get students to sign on. So far, 1,500 students have signed on. Our group is hopeful to meet with Dr. DeGioia sometime this spring. In addition we are working to gain the support of faculty, alumni, and campus groups. Georgetown University’s College Republicans and College Democrats have already signed on showing their support for our effort. Beyond Georgetown, we are reaching out to other campaigns across the country to become more connected with some of the 200+ divestment campaigns taking place throughout the country right now.
ISN: How did you get involved?
Syndey: I got involved because some of my friends have been involved on other campuses. I was inspired when I saw some campaigns at the SOA Watch Vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia. I started to build up a core group of others that were interested. I am very passionate about the environment and student rights on campus and having a say in investment, so this was a way to bring those together.
ISN: Why is this important for it to be a campaign of divestment versus shareholder advocacy?
Sydney: Usually the purpose of shareholder advocacy is to get companies to change their behavior, but this is very difficult when you are working with fossil fuel companies. They are not going to stop being fossil fuel companies. Shareholder advocacy would not allow us to work for the significant changes related to global climate change that we hope to see.
ISN: How have you been able to draw students into the effort?
Sydney: We have been talking to students and letting them know that we are out there. They know what is happening and they want to help and show their support. It helps to be in DC because there many national gatherings related to climate change that happen here regularly.
ISN: What are your hopes for the movement going forward?
Sydney: I hope the campaign creates greater opportunities for dialogue throughout the Georgetown community and leads to our university becoming a leader in the climate change movement. More generally speaking, we of course hope to see the slowing of climate change.
ISN: Any message you want to share with students at other Jesuit universities?
Sydney: We have a special set of values that I admire and want to dedicate my life to, and I think that divestment adheres to those values. In order to adhere to these values, we should look at these companies that are violating human rights and the environment. As students we have a distinct responsibility to fight for divestment.